This week in a delayed edition of “The Smoldering Ruin”, we take a look back at the Louisville game where Clemson football donned their purple and orange uniform combo. It’s something they haven’t done in 12 years, but they may need to add that combo into the season forever going forward.
I love the military appreciation game.
It’s a game that provides so much perspective, even in brief snippets. In the pregame, the families of soldiers from South Carolina lost since 2000 were honored followed by a helicopter flyover during the national anthem. Throughout the game, there were moments that honored both current soldiers and veterans alike, whether its shoutouts to families from Tigers deployed or game breaks that featured veterans to the crescendo of roaring applause. There was a family reunion with a service member coming home, and even an Army dog who got his 15 mins of fame as they played the anthems of each service branch.
But the one thing that will always, without question, make me feel some kind of way is the halftime show that features the “Cross” ceremony and a 21-gun salute. This year was slightly different, but equally hard-hitting. It was the 1st official time since 1942 that Memorial Stadium was able to be dedicated to the veterans. Clemson was able to get the last 3 living Clemson Alumni POWs of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war in a special ceremony on the field. And of course, it ended with the always (every year always) emotional medley rendition of Taps and Amazing Grace.
82,000 people attend the game, and every year since these ceremonies began, 82,000 people sit in absolute stillness. The quiet is defining but should always remind us how lucky we are to sit in Death Valley, enjoy the game, and yell at 18–22-year olds every Saturday.
For the game itself, one of the “hot button” issues this past weekend was if Clemson would wear orange pants to go along with their purple jerseys. For those of you who don’t know, Clemson doesn’t wear orange britches for just any game, a trophy has to be on the line. Clemson won the division the week before with Syracuse losing, so technically they didn’t have to wear them.
But leave it to Dabo to surprise the masses.
Now, I am in a very small minority that doesn’t particularly care about how many uniform combos or helmets a team has. Catch me at a party and you might get me to admit that I want a chrome purple helmet, or a white helmet…..or (GASP) a blackout uniform. But I understand why Dabo does what he normally does, and I don’t object to it either.
So, when Clemson trotted out in a purple and orange combo, I had to grin a little bit.
I bet most people don’t understand what colors represent in most general cases. Purple and orange represent royalty and enthusiasm, respectively. Maybe that’s why (I highly doubt it) Dabo chose this combo- Clemson is still ACC Royalty. The purple monsters smashed both lines of scrimmage, established the run game, and got in the Louisville backfield.
Orange is for enthusiasm, something there hasn’t been much of from outside the program for about 2 years now. But that’s exactly where all the noise is: outside.
Clemson football responded to all the negativity on Military Appreciation Day
This team responded rather emphatically. Several pundits, both outside of and in Clemson, straight-up picked Louisville to win. Most had this game going down to the wire. But there was an enthusiasm on the sideline this past week that wasn’t present in South Bend.
And I understand, this was definitely not the cleanest or best performance Clemson has ever put forward, but it was the game Clemson needed. The Tiger defense forced turnovers and got sacks. Players like Williams, Mafah, and Shipley reminded us all that they still have some time in purple and orange.
At the end of the day, as I walked out of the stadium in the breezy dusk of a November night, with the sun setting across Lake Hartwell, I realized just how fun it was to watch it all.
It’s all still in front of them.